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The pa Marcus Lloyd built

A WHATATUTU pa site uninhabited for at least seven generations has been brought back to life by eighth- generation descendant Marcus Lloyd. Marcus has embarked on a project to rebuild the pa.

“I’m doing this to restore the history of our ancestry,” he says.

“The project is a restoration of ancient and new. It is a combination of the old pa site with the modern pa site.”

Named Pakeke o Whirikoka after the Maori chief, the pa on the Lloyd family’s land was once home to hapu Ngai Tamatea. Gisborne’s Wananga o Aotearoa, Whirikoka, is named after the chief.

Pakeke o Whirikoka is on raised ground near the confluence of the Waipaoa and Mangatu rivers, and is sheltered from the wind by the hill.

The Maori word for the meeting of two rivers is wairua, says Marcus. This is the same word for “spirit”. The word for genealogy is whakapapa which refers to layers of soil.

“We built this for our children’s history,” says Marcus.

“We are the latest layer of history. It is a continuation.”

Before deciding where to place structures such as the palisade, whare moe (sleeping house), gates, pahu mokomoko (war-drum) and terraced garden, though, he used to sit on a hill-top above the site over a period of six months to contemplate the lay of the land. He also did a “massive amount” of research.

Shelter, security and access to water factored into the original pa builders’ plan.

“I felt like they were there helping me understand why these structures were placed here,” says Marcus.

Rather than call in archaeologists, Marcus relied on observation, logic, intuition, research, kaumatua (elders), farmers’ local knowledge and stories. From the orientation of the ridge line, he deduced where the original palisade would have been erected.

Indentations in the ground helped him locate the pa’s features.

He determined the area of the whare moe and removed a layer of soil. He packed the whare moe’s manuka walls with silt and river sand mixed with earth from the pa site. The palisade and first whare helped with the orientation of other buildings while the manuka thatched roof is based on a pre-marae, ancient style of building, says Marcus. Pa preceded the marae which is a more recent concept.

Height of the whare moe’s roofUsing the average height of the human body he deduced the height of the whare moe’s roof. To dig holes to a consistent depth before sinking structural poles into them, Marcus used his lower leg — from sole to knee — as a unit of measurement. The approximate one-metre depth is one third of the height of the structural pole.

“I figured they would have used practical means of measurement to build things in the old days. A lot of the construction comes down to pure practicality.”

In the absence of harakeke (flax) in the vicinity of the site, Marcus lashed the poles together with natural fibre rope. After contemplating a V-shaped cut in the side of a hill he saw an opportunity to build a store shed and shelter lean-to that could be used for carving and weaving. A particularly eye-catching feature of the grand design is the watch-tower Marcus calls the pahu mokomoko. A hollowed and carved totara log forms a sculptural drum which is suspended from a frame.

“In the old days the guard would sit up there and bang the wooden drum from time to time to say he was watching and the inhabitants could sleep well.”

A lizard guardianThe drum is carved in the form of a lizard, the guardian.

Marcus created a self-supporting tipi, a conical structure, from three-metre lengths of manuka at the site.

“For two weeks they stayed there and didn’t move.”

The pa site is sheltered from the elements, he says.

“I’ve been there in wind, rain and sun and have found it is a cocoon, a pocket of air.”

The significance of an adjacent hill which gets the sun all day became apparent to Marcus.

“The flat part of the hill gets sunlight but there was nothing there to suggest the site’s purpose. I watched where the sun came across and thought ‘where else would you put a garden?’ ”

Marcus cannot be sure if a garden was planted there but it seemed to be a most suitable spot. A nearby depression in the ground creates a natural, if temporary, pond after rain.

Local, natural materialsAs Maori would have done in ancient times, Marcus and his team used whatever natural materials they could access within the pa site’s vicinity. One exception are the totara spars retrieved from a Mangatu property 30 kilometres away. These are remnants of forest felled and burned by settlers. Some trunks are still charred. Others poked out of the ground. Some charring is evident in the whare moe’s maihi (barge boards). These spars were lying in the paddock.

This is the only timber sourced from outside the vicinity of the Whirikoka pa.

The totara’s provenance presents an opportunity to tell the story of deforestation and the making of pastures from the days of colonial settlement, says Marcus.

During the rebuild, Marcus learned about traditional digging and cutting tools. He used modern iron implements but found, pre-colonisation, trees were felled with large adzes swung from ropes to chip away at a tree trunk. In the old days, fire was used to char the chop-site on the trunks which made chipping quicker.

Marcus, family members and friends mostly used materials within a one kilometre radius of the site. Traditional building materials such as totara, raupo, rimu and harakeke have long been stripped from the land so the team used manuka lashed with natural fibre rope.

“You appreciate you work in a different mind-set, a different sense of time,” says Marcus.

“In the old days, they built a pa site over a period of years. Generations would work on a pa site.”

Children involved in the wokHis children were involved in the build and he expects them, and their future children, to repair, maintain and even develop the pa and its nursery. Marcus’s family uses the pa like it is part of their home.

“We tell the boys they will be responsible for its maintenance so generations down the track will be able to use resources grown from the nursery.”

While the pa was not built as a movie set or as a tourist attraction, but as a practical exercise in cultural heritage, Marcus sees the benefit of the site as a tourism and eductational resource.

One hands-on activity visitors could get involved in is plaiting rope from flax grown in a nursery sited above the whare moe.

“We would like visitors to experience it but as authentically as possible. Integrity is important. Our first priority was to restore our heritage. The second priority is education about the history of our iwi. Story-telling is another opportunity,” he says.

“Farmers have warmed to the idea. There’s an important aspect of community unity. It’s not just Maori who have expressed interest. It’s everybody.”

His plan to take the pa recreation project further and develop its educational and tourism potential has already begun. He has had keen “woofers” help with the build. Woofers are travellers who work on farms and in agricultural businesses in exchange for accommodation and food. Some have helped plant 100 manuka seedlings donated by EIT’s rural division.

A native nursery and restoration trustMarcus has met with Department of Conservation, Tourism New Zealand and Tairawhiti Museum representatives. Plant material suppliers Riversun are also interested in Marcus’s enterprise. With the help of Riversun he plans to develop a hillside nursery of native plants adjacent to the site.

“The replanting of natives coincides with Riversun’s native planting project. This is an opportunity for us to get sustainable. We want a selection of natives.

“We would like to build a comprehensive collection of harakeke species and natives trees in situ.”

Three pa sites between Patutahi and Matawai are in need of restoration.

“I’m thinking of starting a pa site restoration trust,” he says.

A trust could get behind pa restoration and rebuilds and promote a pa site trail. Restored sites would need to be sustainable and maintained. He has already talked with Tourism New Zealand representatives about what he and his team have done with Whirikoka pa.

“We talked about what’s culturally significant to bring people to the region. Authenticity and cultural integrity is central to the concept. If we had a concept around pa sites, you could have an entire reason for tourists to come here.

“Once we launch it, we want to share that value.”

If a pa was to be restored on Kaiti Hill the best course of action to begin with would be to sit on the summit once the hill was cleared of pine and exotics and look at the terrain for clues as to where the pa was sited, he says. Clues include pits, holes, depressions and cuts.

“I’m claiming family and iwi heritage as motivation to begin the process. Now I’m looking at ways to engage the community.

“I think it’s good to show what we are doing.”


MISTY: When First Tribe managing director Marcus Lloyd rebuilt a pa on an old pa site once inhabited by hapu Ngai Tamatea on family land in Whatatutu, he had to work out where various structures might have been erected. He was also conscious of potential photographic angles as seen in this evocative image of the pa. Picture by Marcus Lloyd
PAKEKE O WHIRIKOKA: Indentations and cuts in the hillside gave clues to Whatatutu man Marcus Lloyd as to where various structures once stood. Picture by Marcus Lloyd
HOME: Whatatutu man Marcus Lloyd’s children were involved with the rebuild of the pa on his family’s land. They use it like it is part of their home, he says. Marcus expects them, and their future children, to repair, maintain and even develop the pa and its nursery. Picture by Marcus Lloyd